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  1. #1
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    Touring/camping in cold weather

    As of Monday, I became single again and now all of my plans for this weekend have been screwed up. I have been depressed here lately and I am wanting to take a 3 day tour. The problem that I have is that on a Friday, the high is going to be 52 with a low in the 20s. What I am concerned with is camping in the freezing weather. I have a 30-50* sleeping bag, and my tent is a Kelty Grand Mesa 2. Other than bundling up, what can I do to keep warm? I am mainly concerned during the night time hours where I am going to be sitting still for the majority of the time.

    Any suggestions?
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  2. #2
    40 yrs bike touring
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    Layering your clothing in and outside your sleeping bag; heat packs or water bladders filled with hot water at your feet or midisection in the sleeping bag. Make sure the caps seal well or enclose in ziplock bags;
    A candle in a can can warm a tent a bit; a vapor barrier can add degrees of warmth to your bag; a breathable bivy over your sleeping bag adds degrees of warmth; supposedly 40+% of body heaat is lost from the head and neck- use a balaclava to cover both areas. A thick pad under you is most important.
    Campgrounds won't be as crowded in cold weather.
    Enjoy the tour and your new status.

  3. #3
    Mote of Dust degan's Avatar
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    I'd say the most important thing is to make sure that you are up off the ground. I camped on the beach during a three or four day ride and it was horrible, even though I had a nice tent and fire and it was summer, because I only had a thin sleeping bag.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    My Thermarest has worked fine from an insulation prospective down to 27, the lowest I've experienced. I always sleep in what ever layers seem justified by the predicted low and my 25 degree bag, actually good to about 35 degress. I wear a wool watch cap over head and ears, having sacrificed the bag hood to reduce bulk. Good gloves and wool socks complete the package.

    These heat packs might have a place in your sleeping bag. Mine too.
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  5. #5
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    You have to buy a warmer bag. No bag, don't do it. Thermarest is good. For really cold, you need two pads, the Thermarest on top of a waffle pad. Down mummy is by far the best. Doesn't take a lot of bag for one of those to work, as long as your pad is good. Just make the breathing hole small and don't move. Don't burn a candle in your tent. Yeeeesh. Or smoke anything, for that matter. Heated objects and packs work a little, but they don't last long. Eating a good sized dinner right before sleep helps.

  6. #6
    Mote of Dust degan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    You have to buy a warmer bag. No bag, don't do it. Thermarest is good. For really cold, you need two pads, the Thermarest on top of a waffle pad. Down mummy is by far the best. Doesn't take a lot of bag for one of those to work, as long as your pad is good. Just make the breathing hole small and don't move. Don't burn a candle in your tent. Yeeeesh. Or smoke anything, for that matter. Heated objects and packs work a little, but they don't last long. Eating a good sized dinner right before sleep helps.
    Ever read Into the Wild? There is a part where the narrator almost freezes to death when the 'cigarette' he was smoking melted a hole in his tent while in Yukon. That definitely has to be a buzz kill.

  7. #7
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    The best answer is a better sleeping bag. I would skip the heat pack and hot water bottles They will be cooled off in and hour or two.

    I also disagree with the get up off the ground comment unless the poster meant to use a sleeping pad with a decent R value (a must). If you can't afford or just don't want to buy a Thermarest, a cheap foam pad works well.

    Piling some clothes on top of yourself inside the sleeping bag helps.

    A vapor barrier against the skin will work well to extend survivability in quite a bit colder temps, but getting up in the morning soaking wet is no fun. A really big trash bag works well if you decide to try this approach.

    All that said, I'd rather run, snowshoe, xc ski, or hike when it is really cold. Then again daytime highs of 50 isn't that bad.
    Last edited by staehpj1; 11-25-10 at 05:34 AM.

  8. #8
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    Tent in itself doesn't offer much insulation. In that regard, a snow cave or igloo is vastly better. For the temps you're talking about, your tent (double wall) will be fine.

    Concentrate on being off the ground, and properly enclosed in the bag. Use two or even more sleeping pads on top of one another. Normal clothes tend to compress (like your bag), so they don't help much beneath you. Regarding your bag, the 30-50* temp rating alone doesn't tell much. Is it according to the comfort/limit/extreme standard, and if so, which is it? Does the bag have mummy style hood? Do you know if you tolerate cold in your sleep or do you have to be really warm? One easy way to add bag insulation is to put a silk or cotton liner in the bag, or put one bag inside another if you have two.

    There are two schools of thought regarding wearing clothes for insulation in the bag, one saying it helps, the other saying it doesn't. I've never tried myself in really extreme conditions, so cannot say. I prefer sleeping nekkid and my bag has always been warm enough for that. If you sleep naked, take at least some clothes in the bag so they'll be warm and nice to put on when you wake up in the morning.

    I'd be weary of bringing fire inside a tent, for two reasons: it can obviously burn stuff it's not supposed to, and it can create carbon monoxide (not an issue with candles etc, but can be with some stoves).
    Last edited by Juha; 11-25-10 at 07:07 AM.
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  9. #9
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    go buy a warmer sleeping bag, there's always sleeping bags on sale on the internet.

    bring puffy insulated parka, and drape that over the top of you and your sleeping bag.

    bring a quilt from home.

    I'm a fan of the candle lantern. as long as you're careful, candlelanterns in tents are safe, and they do add warmth. at very least you can warm your numb fingers around it while you shiver thru to the dawn.

    additionally, a real double wall winter tent DOES add some insulation value, and with a candle lantern inside, are quite a bit toastier than outside in winter. i've been winter camping for 30 years and have spent months of my life sleeping in the snow... i don't know where people get the idea a double wall winter tent doesn't help in wintertime!

    I've spent a lot of nights out in insufficient sleeping gear - you'll be fine. you won't freeze, you might get miserable. c'est la vie.
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  10. #10
    Charles Ramsey
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    http://www.greenlightoffice.com/offi...erforated.html get some polyethlene packing foam there are pieces blowing around if you are looking for them. Polyethelene is an excellent insulator. a 4 by 6 foot piece will weigh about 1 ounce.

  11. #11
    40 yrs bike touring
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    safetycentral_2133_78765256.jpg
    This is the candle in a can that I mentioned earlier in this thread.

    These candle in cans have a low center of gravity for safety and multiple wicks for increasing the heat output. Inexpensive and effective as are the candle lanterns mentioned by Bekologist.
    http://safetycentral.com/nuw120hourca.html

    I have used them on long cold weather bike, kayak and x-c ski tours in Alaska, Alberta and Montana for over 40 years and lived to write this. From some of the responses I should feel lucky to have survived my own stupidity. To be clear, I was NOT using a long taper dining room table candle [uncovered] just waiting to fall over and burn the tent down.

    The knee jerk negative responses suggest to me a lack of cold weather camping experience and/or a rigidity of outlook unwilling to consider an unknown alternative tool that might have value in the activity discussed.

  12. #12
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    I decided to do the 3 day tour this weekend. I went and looked for another sleeping bag today with no success. I am going to take a blanket along as well as my sleeping bag (I've been in 32* weather with no blanket and it was cold but somewhat tolerable). I do have a 1.5" air cell sleeping pad that I use to get me off the ground and its stays packed with the tent. I picked up a candle lantern today, so I am going to try to get some heat from that. Hopefully that will be enough to make the sleep at least tolerable.
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  13. #13
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by arctos View Post
    safetycentral_2133_78765256.jpg
    This is the candle in a can that I mentioned earlier in this thread.

    These candle in cans have a low center of gravity for safety and multiple wicks for increasing the heat output. Inexpensive and effective as are the candle lanterns mentioned by Bekologist.
    http://safetycentral.com/nuw120hourca.html

    I have used them on long cold weather bike, kayak and x-c ski tours in Alaska, Alberta and Montana for over 40 years and lived to write this. From some of the responses I should feel lucky to have survived my own stupidity. To be clear, I was NOT using a long taper dining room table candle [uncovered] just waiting to fall over and burn the tent down.

    The knee jerk negative responses suggest to me a lack of cold weather camping experience and/or a rigidity of outlook unwilling to consider an unknown alternative tool that might have value in the activity discussed.
    I used candle lanterns in tents for a few decades until LED headlamps came out. I'm talking about proper candle lanterns, where the flame is totally enclosed in a metal and glass tube and hung from the tent overhead. I only used them for reading, hence the reference to LEDs. Encouraging someone to use an open flame for heating in a tent, meaning going to sleep with an open flame burning in one's tent, with hair, tent, and bag all being highly flammable . . . I don't think that's at all a good idea. I know that when I go to sleep in a tent, I often wake up in different postures and locations than I was in when I drifted off.

    I think these candles would be fine, as long as one was awake. I've done a lot of stove cooking in my tent in cold weather, with never a worry. With your experience, I would think you would not use these for heat in the night either, since you would have taken adequate gear.

    Going personally negative on other posters who might disagree with you is unproductive. Slept out at F -55. That was back when North Face was a storefront opposite Carol Doda's bar, and they sold good bags.

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    I think you are going to have a good time, but keep in mind that the day is short so don't forget the flashlight or headlamp.

    Wear some good long underwear. As mentioned above, a stocking cap when you sleep helps.

    I would avoid open flame in a tent. Arctic explorers figured out long ago that eating an ounce of fat gives you a lot more heat than burning a one ounce candle. And it is a lot safer to eat some extra butter on your sandwich.

    If it is below freezing out, don't leave your water bottle where it will freeze.

    Canister stoves do not work well in cold weather. I have taken my canister inside my sleeping bag overnight so that it will be warm in the morning.

  15. #15
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Wear a cap, that does more to keep me warm than anything else. It is amazing the amount of heat that is lost through the human head. Using a thin wool blanket inside the sleeping bag will help extend the temperature range as will a silk liner. Even adding a blanket on top won't hurt. I have car camped several times when we didn't have sleeping bags and we built bed rolls out of quilts and wool blankets, stayed toasty warm. A nice warm dinner a little while prior to turning in helps too.

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  16. #16
    40 yrs bike touring
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    Going personally negative on other posters who might disagree with you is unproductive.
    My apologies for writing a hasty mid-holiday prep response without reconsidering the negative tone in the last paragraph. [ I assmed that others would use the item in an enclosed container only while awake as I do.] Your points are well taken.

    Thanks for reminding me to not hit the send button without reflection!

  17. #17
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    I made it through the high Andes in the middle of winter with a summer bag - it's doable. Before we headed up I went to the fabric store and bought a couple yards of lightweight fleece fabric to use as an extra layer. I actually sewed the bottom part into a bag to go over my other bag. I also wore two wool hats - yes two. I found it made a world of difference. Make sure you have a good pad - it doesn't have to be an expensive thermarest - just something to protect you from the ground. You will be VERY cold if you are touching the ground.
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  18. #18
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nancy sv View Post
    I made it through the high Andes in the middle of winter with a summer bag - it's doable. Before we headed up I went to the fabric store and bought a couple yards of lightweight fleece fabric to use as an extra layer. I actually sewed the bottom part into a bag to go over my other bag. I also wore two wool hats - yes two. I found it made a world of difference. Make sure you have a good pad - it doesn't have to be an expensive thermarest - just something to protect you from the ground. You will be VERY cold if you are touching the ground.
    I thought of you in the adventure tour thread. You ma'am, are adventure touring! I wish you continued good fortune.

  19. #19
    djb
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    I highly second the Candle Lanterns, the ones with the spring doohicky that keeps the candle in the proper position as it burns "down", and has the glass sides and compacts down into itself. Great great things, have used them for ages and ages. We have a few tents in the family, and in my "candle lantern bag" I have spare candles, matches, the circular reflective thingee to bounce the light downwards, and most importantly, a coiled up bit of thin wire that I hang the candle lantern from either a hook at top of tent, or if there is no hook, from a string that is permaenently attached to our tents that dont have hookee things.

    Candle lantern then hangs down from middle of tent, not too close to top of tent, can be bumped into and doesnt fall, and it really really takes teh edge of cold and damp off the inside of a tent. No, I dont sleep with them on, but then, if secured properly (use common sense) it would nt be a prob, and even if it fell, no open flame is there--YES it would melt your sleeping bag cuz its hot, but honestly, they work great.
    Have used them for well over 20 years if not more.

    this of course will not "heat" a tent at below freezing, so I second the winter hat or toque as we say here, a real warm one, Neck ups etc etc
    Polar fleece pants, wool socks, you name it, go for the light weight highest insulation stuff--fleece being great.
    +2 on the good camp mat or TWO. Do you have a down vest? great warmth vs weight.
    chemical warmers? what the heck, why not, small but could make a nice diff in your sleeping bag.
    Mitts!!! liner mitts or liner gloves too.

    dry soup packs....hot luiquid makes a heck of a diff of how one feels. More food too, cold weather means you'll want more food.

    would be best if you could try out stuff beforehand.

  20. #20
    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    1. Buy an over bag like the Big Agnes Yampa, adds 25 degrees to you existing sleeping bag.

    http://www.bigagnes.com/Products/Detail/Bag/Yampa

    2. Double up your ground pad, your ground insulation must equal your top insulation.

    3. Warm wool cap

    4. A good book, gets dark early and you need something to do till bed time.

    5. and........... yes wear your clothes to bed, as long as they are dry and your sleeping bag still fits loose. More insulation is more insulation, as long as it's not compressed.

  21. #21
    Senior Member rekmeyata's Avatar
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    Not me, I hate the cold, I'm a wimp. The coldest I've ever camped in was 32 degrees. I had a small single wall one person tent, but did use a candle lantern. I also used a down North Face mummy sleeping bag that was rated for 20 degrees or so. I tried sleeping naked as some had said but was too cool for my liking so I put on some wool long underwear and socks and then I was fine, so I concluded that sleeping naked wasn't that great of an idea. My bag had a hood so I didn't cover my face with anything but the hood. I used a small air mattress for my ground insulation, that was a military spec'd mattress that blew to about 4 inches thick. Not sure if an air mattress is better or worse then a Thermarest for insulation purposes since I've never used a Thermarest; I like the air mattress because it's lighter and packs smaller. I was warm enough, but again I don't like the cold. I read once that if you still too cold is to stuff your sleeping bag with dry leaves then get in, the leaves will trap your warm body heat better. Also don't forget to vigorously fluff or shake your sleeping bag up before getting in.

    Your better off buying a sleeping bag rated for at least 10 degrees colder then what you will be using it in, on hotter days you can either unzip it partially or fully to ventilate, or sleep on top of it. Chemical heat packs should work great inside a bag, I use them inside my parka when ice fishing and stay pretty comfortable, if they work in a parka they should work great in a bag.

    Eating a big high calorie dinner helps the body to generate heat thus you'll be warmer when sleeping. Just make sure you don't sweat, sweating will make your bag damp which in turn will lead to a cold bag. That's why I like wool socks and underwear, because it absorbs moisture better then any other fabric thus you stay drier. Also drink a hot liquid before bed.

  22. #22
    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    With a double wall tent I have more than a few times brought my stove inside the tent.... Yes inside. Sure someone will chime in that it's stupid and dangerous but having extensive experience doing this if done in a safe manner can make the inside of the tent toasty warm and also dry out any wet clothing. Of course this is only for short periods and NOT for sleeping.

    Already mentioned... sleep with hat on. Good pad and a bag with a real rating of 20 should keep you toasty. A rating of 30-50 just sounds like a crap bag to me. Invest in a better one and sleep like a baby. A single pad is plenty if it's a good one. Having slept on a ton of glaciers with my single pad and 20 degree bag I have never been worried about surviving a night.
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  23. #23
    surfrider
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    Upgrade your sleeping bag to this:

    http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___40067

    Its sold as a 0F bag, but realistically its a 20F bag (from a friend's experience). I'd suggest spending $10 more and getting the 'long' version to give extra space for stuff you don't want to freeze overnight. Personally I have a Marmot Never Summer (0F bag), but that costs more.

    Also second what's mentioned above to use two sleeping pads; a closed cell foam pad (Ridgerest or equal) with a Thermarest on top of it. Also sleep with a wool beanie on your head.

  24. #24
    djb
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    well, according to the OP's story, he was going to be out this weekend, so it will be interesting to see if he did in fact go and if in fact he did or did not freeze his keester off (I just hope he took a toque and warm stuff, being cold truly sucks, especially if he was feeling already miserable -perhaps- due to the reason he was going off on his own this weekend...)

  25. #25
    sniffin' glue zoltani's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by djb View Post
    well, according to the OP's story, he was going to be out this weekend, so it will be interesting to see if he did in fact go and if in fact he did or did not freeze his keester off (I just hope he took a toque and warm stuff, being cold truly sucks, especially if he was feeling already miserable -perhaps- due to the reason he was going off on his own this weekend...)
    +! I am looking forward to an update and trip report. Around here thanksgiving day was in the mid seventies, then a cold front came through and temps were below freezing at night.
    Those who are easily shocked should be shocked more often.

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